ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Earlier this spring on NBC, a bizarre bistro served as the setting for a tryout series (director Wes Craven's "Nightmare Cafe"). Tonight on ABC, the comings and goings at "Jack's Place" provide a similar, while more conventional venue for the return to series television of amiable Hal Linden ("Barney Miller").
The show debuts at 10 (Channel 13) as a summer-run series not on the fall schedule. But if enough viewers tune in, we could see it return as a mid-season replacement.
Linden portrays a former jazz player who is the proprietor of a neighborhood eatery. Other regulars include Finola Hughes ("General Hospital") and John Dye ("Tour of Duty") as a waitress and bartender.
But like the many cruises of "The Love Boat," the comedy/drama will see plenty of guests.
Trivia test: Who remembers the series in which Linden starred after "Barney Miller" (1975-1982) went off the air?
It was "Blacke's Magic," which ran from January to June, 1986 on NBC. He played a retired magician who used his knowledge of legerdemain as a detective, with the help of his father (Harry Morgan).
* More trivia, regarding a guest appearance by actress Stella Stevens tonight on NBC's repeat "In the Heat of the Night" (at 8 o'clock, Channel 2). She plays a former love interest of Chief Gillespie (Carrol O'Connor).
Does anybody else remember Stevens' debut in the movies? (Hint: Her co-star makes an annual appearance on TV.)
The movie was "The Nutty Professor" in 1963, with Jerry Lewis as a Jekyll/Hyde scientist and Stevens as a comely co-ed.
* Have book, will talk. That could be Daryl Gates' motto (with apologies to Richard Boone of "Have Gun Will Travel").
Gates, the lame duck police chief of Los Angeles, is scheduled to discuss the recent riots on tomorrow's edition of "Donahue" (at 9 a.m., Channel 2).
Do you think we'll hear any mention of Gates' recently published autobiography? Hey, this is TV, where promotion always predominates.
The book, "Chief: My Life in the LAPD," likely will frame the interview, for "Donahue" pre-publicity (the show was being taped today) noted Gates' earlier involvement with such other high-profile cases as Marilyn Monroe's death, the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
* The last word? It was harsh, but commentator/economist Julianne Malveaux of Maryland Public Television's "To the Contrary" talk show last week zinged Vice President Dan Quayle over the "Murphy Brown" babygate flap.
"Quayle finally found his intellectual equal -- a fictional character," said Malveaux.